In honor of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s birthday, we’re taking a look at the history of Balenciaga’s most iconic handbags: the Motorcycle bag.
Today is also Christian Dior’s birthday, and if you haven’t already, check out our post on the History of the Lady Dior bag.
Left: Alberta Tiburzi (in Balenciaga) by Hiro Yasuhiro Wakabayashi for Harper’s Bazaar (1967). Right: Cristóbal Balenciaga by Roger Viollet (1927)
We cannot talk about the Motorcycle bag without talking about the man behind the house, Cristóbal Balenciaga. Balenciaga was born in the Basque region of Spain in 1895. His fashion career started at age 12, when he began working as a tailor. Soon enough, young Cristóbal was sent to Madrid, to further his tailoring skills, through his customer and patron, the Marquesa de Casa Torres (1). Balenciaga enjoyed fame in his native Spain, even going as far as to open a few boutiques. However, when the Spanish civil war began in 1936, Balenciaga moved to Paris, where he opened his own couture house.
Cristóbal Balenciaga is remembered as a private man who did not like the press; he only gave one full interview his whole life. However, his work was nothing short of art. He was continuously praised by contemporary designers, like Christian Dior, who said he was “the master of us all,” and Coco Chanel, who declared Balenciaga “a couturier in the truest sense of the word…The others are simply fashion designers.” (2)
The Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, Ava Gardner, and other trendsetters of the time (many of whom are still considered style icons to this day) were admirers and patrons of Cristóbal Balenciaga.
Now, more than 40 years after his passing, he’s still remembered as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) couturiers of all time.